Total settled snow depth: 34 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 44 degrees F (December 21)
Low temperature: -15 degrees F (December 25)
Ski Conditions and Weather
California and the Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers finally got the gift they were looking for this holiday season—snow! Winter is off to a great start up here. We received sixteen inches of new snow with one inch of water on Christmas Eve and a few bonus flakes (2 inches) on Christmas Day. Temperatures were very cold following the storm and the winds have been calm. The powder skiing in the greater Tuolumne Meadows area is fantastic! The trail breaking has become a lot easier as the snow has settled. However, forecasted warm temperatures will probably leave a sun-crust on more southerly aspects.
Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions
Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center for the avalanche advisory for this part of the Sierra Nevada.
This storm cycle also saw some natural avalanche activity especially on north facing slopes beneath rock bands. However, these slides appeared to be isolated to the upper snowpack (newly fallen snow). If temperatures warm, one should be wary on southerly aspects especially on granite domes/slabs and rock fall may occur in places along the Tioga Road corridor. In the alpine zone, areas of instability may exist on wind loaded slopes and extra caution is advised as there are weak layers deeper within the snowpack.
As we were pointing out the large flocks of American Robins we have been seeing lately to a local wildlife biologist, she paused a bit longer to hear the more subtle calls of the Cedar Waxwing. They were also foraging among the branches of the Juniper on the south-facing slopes of Lembert Dome. We all got a fantastic look at this striking bird as it flitted among the crowns of the trees looking for Juniper berries. The more common winter resident, the Townsend’s Solitaire, appeared irritated, perhaps wondering when these competitors will head south for the winter.
The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. There is firewood and 10 bunks that are available on a first come, first served basis. There is power but no phone service in Tuolumne Meadows this winter. We can be contacted via email, but we may be delayed in responding if we are on patrol. Contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740 with any questions or concerns. Come prepared, and please make good decisions while travelling in the wilderness this winter.
Happy New Year!
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Winter Rangers